Manny Pacquiao isn’t overlooking his opponent Yordenis Ugas for this Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Pacquiao was supposed to be facing the highly dangerous IBF/WBC welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., but he pulled out because of a reported eye injury.
The 42-year-old Pacquiao would have had his hands full against Spence, who is rated #1 at 147 by many boxing fans, but it’s a different story for his fight with Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs), who been beaten four times during his career.
While Ugas, 35, holds the WBA ‘Super World’ title, the World Boxing Association elevated him to that position outside of the ring. They stripped Pacquiao of that belt for 20 months of inactivity after winning the strap in July 2020.
The Cuban Ugas captured his WBA 147-lb title last September with a narrow 12 round split decision win over Abel Ramos, and he’s not fought since.
It’s got to be a little bit hard for Pacquiao to keep his motivation at a high level for this fight with Ugas, as there’s not as much fan interest as there was when he was fighting Spence.
The $74.99 PPV price is still the same as when Pacquiao was facing Spence, but the fans are not as eager to see this match. As such, Pacquiao must stay mentally engaged for this fight because if he goes in there on Saturday thinking it’s going to be an easy match, he could lose.
“I am not taking him for granted. In fact, I am taking him as seriously as I took Errol Spence,” said Pacquiao to Yahoo Sports News on him facing replacement opponent Ugas instead of Spence.
“I will not make the same mistake Ledwaba made with me. I still have the same hunger to win. I live for it.
“I have had a great training camp, and I am well-prepared. I want to prove to everyone, especially Yordenis Ugas, that I am still here,” said Pacquiao.
With Pacquiao, you don’t know how much he has left at this point because he hasn’t fought in two years since his win over Keith Thurman in July 2019.
Although Manny looked pretty good in that fight, he was still beatable against a fighter that looked nowhere near as good as he’d been two years earlier in 2017.
Thurman went into training camp for the Pacquiao fight 30 lbs overweight, and he had to melt all that off to get ready.
‘One Time’ Thurman had only fought once in the past two years before facing Pacquiao, and he wasn’t anywhere close to where he was for his fight with Danny Garcia in 2017. Despite Thurman not being at his best, he came close to beating Pacquiao.
So here we are two years later, with Pacquiao not having fought since 2019, and he’s facing a pretty good fighter in Ugas, who gave Shawn Porter all he could handle in their fight in 2019.
Really, there might not be as much of a drop-off as some boxing fans think going from Spence to Ugas, which could be bad news for Pacquiao.
If Pacquiao assumes that Ugas is a far inferior fighter than Spence, he might be in for a brutal shock on Saturday.
“My title was given to Ugas,” Pacquiao said. “That is not how you become a champion. You earn it by winning it inside the ring. We will fight for the title. That is the proper way a champion is crowned.”
It’s best for Pacquiao to forget about why his WBA title was stripped from him. There’s no mystery about it. Pacquiao hadn’t fought in 20 months since winning the WBA belt in 2019, and there was talk of him possibly fighting lightweight Ryan Garcia.
The WBA likely thought that Pacquiao wouldn’t make a defense for a long, long time, so they stripped him. If the sanctioning bodies had their act together, they would make it a rule that the champions should defend their titles at least once a year, if not twice. For champions that fail to do that, they get stripped—no special treatment.